We spoke to the author of the new book about Branwell, Who is Branwell Brontë?, to find out a little more about why he wrote it, why he felt it was needed, and ask him for his favourite Branwell fact.
Why did you write a book about Branwell Brontë?
That’s a big question! I tell everyone there were three reasons: it felt unfair that he was so overlooked, I felt sorry for him, and it didn’t seem fair that he was remembered for drink and drugs instead of his poetry.
You mention that you studied Branwell at university. Why didn’t you pursue academic publication?
That’s certainly the traditional route, but academic publications are largely unknown by most people, and they’re often really expensive! I hated the idea that I could write something that no-one would read because they didn’t know about it or couldn’t afford it.
You mention in the introduction that you want to “reset the Branwell narrative”. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Sure. Most people don’t know who Branwell is. Those who do think he was the man portrayed in dramas like To Walk Invisible; a waste of space, a drunk and little more. Even among academic circles, Branwell is relegated to a footnote; they might recognise he published poetry, but he’s still deemed unimportant. I wanted this book to be a reset button: clear out all the bugs in Branwell’s story and start afresh. Once we’ve got rid of the myths and the misconceptions, we can start to have a proper conversation about him!
You mention academic circles, but you’re not an academic yourself. Are you worried the book won’t be taken seriously? After all, you’re a novelist by trade.
Well I’d like to think that people will care about what’s inside the book rather than the letters after my name or what else I do. But it’s up to individuals how they want to treat the book. I’ve spent a lot of time on it, and I hope readers will enjoy it.
You make some bold claims about Branwell. Are you worried about creating controversy?
Not at all, I think Branwell could do with some heated discussion! No-one has to agree with everything I write, but I hope they’ll talk about it.
What’s your favourite fact about Branwell?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. It’s a bit sad, but I love the fact he managed to rile up the people of Haworth so much they burnt an effigy of him!
If you could change one thing about people’s perception of Branwell, what would it be?
That he wasn’t a raging alcoholic all his life; just the last couple of years!
Who is Branwell Brontë? is available from Amazon now.